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Impressions of Autumn

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

This year, the seasonal change of colors inspired a change in photographic approach — at least for a couple of days.

With intentional camera movement, the trunk of a silver Birch tree becomes a white streak in front of a blur of colorful vine maple leaves. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes.

As a photographer, it is easy to get excited about the fall season. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the lush and saturated greens of summer can start to feel monotonous by October, so the re-appearance of the vibrant yellows and reds of autumn are a welcome change. Color breaks up the monotony of green vegetation and adds visual interest and depth to a photo.

As we do every year, we have been out photographing the colorful vegetation of our local mountains and valleys and have some very nice results. However, this year we also tried something a little different. In addition to working our compositions to communicate the feeling of change and color in a realistic (or representational) photograph, we experimented with the idea of creating an “impression" of the fall season — not only its color and sense of light, but also the clear signal it sends of change.

Certainly, many photographers have created impressionistic interpretations of straight photographs through their skilled use of Photoshop techniques and filters. We considered doing something similar — for its control and reproducibility — but instead opted for something like semi-controlled serendipity. We used intentional camera movement during the exposure to create a linear blur as a way of implying change. That technique has the added benefit of merging and softening distracting details to create a smooth, multi-colored background.

Slight intentional camera movement creates an impression of movement and memory in the Cherry tree branches and leaves — one that is much more pleasing and evocative than a simple snapshot of the tree (below). Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

We experimented with different shutter speeds, since varying the aperture had only a small effect on the final result. We also experimented with the direction, speed, and amount of camera movement. For our purposes, a short upward or downward movement during a 1/4 - 1/3 second exposure gave the best result. A circular movement seemed too vertiginous, and movement at an angle created a “tilted” image that departed too much from reality for our comfort. Photographing uniformly-lit areas worked best since sunlight or bright areas in a scene were rendered as white streaks that were usually too distracting.

Baby aspen trunks could be mistaken as substantial trees in this impressionistic photo. The general scene is below. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

With some time and practice, we saw the percentage of “successful” photographs rise. While there is undoubtedly plenty of room for improvement, we are happy with our results and added several to our website at Collectively, we think they offer another “vision” of autumn — one that is less about delicate detail and more about lasting impressions and emotions. We hope you agree.

Horizontal sprays of colorful double file viburnum leaves become abstracts with intentional camera movement — but not too much movement! Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Something different — the details are realistic but the colors have been modified in Photoshop. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes


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